The courage of Sarah Hegazi

June 17, 2020

Sarah Hegazi was an activist for the LGBTQ community in her home country of Egypt, and beyond.  Just this past weekend, she died by suicide in Canada, where she had been living in asylum for the past two years.

 

In a country that is patriarchal and culturally conservative, she had the amazing courage to speak openly in favor of the LGBTQ community and show her face in the face of all opposition, which it seems was quite overwhelming, leading to depression and post-traumatic stress, and then ultimately to her suicide.

 

In this article on CNN, I was struck by the following statements by Sarah Hegazi: "The Egyptian middle class leans towards the socially and religiously conservative right. . . . [T]hey practice social stigma [against anyone who] revolts against this oppressive patriarchal culture that is based on oppressing women, workers, and religious and sexual minorities. . . . It is the loudest class in society, so exposing and criticizing it is a duty. . . . [The middle class] laid the foundation for hate, psychological and physical violence, sexual harassment and bullying."

 

It would be easy for so many Americans to look at Egypt from afar as a "foreign" place filled with "others," suggesting a culture and people not very much like us, and therefore by implication, not worth any sort of comparison.

 

But yet, I wonder how much those statements above could apply to at least a certain segment of the American middle class, particularly the parts of it that are ethnically homogeneous and physically isolated from other, more diverse segments of society, and which -- perhaps similarly to the Egyptian middle class -- bases so much of its justifications on a narrow conservative interpretation of religion.

 

Ms. Hegazi, you are now in the sky, may you be free to be who you are, fully accepted and loved unconditionally.  For those of us still here on earth, may we be inspired by you (and so many others) in the ongoing campaign against oppression in all its forms everywhere and in favor of liberty and justice for all.

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